Discrimination law exists to enable everyone to take part equally in public life, regardless of irrelevant personal characteristics. Discrimination law regulates public life, not private life, so, for example, it covers what happens at work, in education or in the supply of goods and services. It does not affect how people conduct their private lives, for instance, who they choose to have as friends. The law says that certain personal characteristics, such as one’s race or age, must be disregarded in public life situations, such as in selecting people for jobs. A person experiences unlawful discrimination if a personal characteristic is taken into account in an area of public life where the law prohibits this.
Discrimination law also prohibits other behaviours that stop people taking part equally in public life. These include sexual harassment, victimization, refusing services to people with guide dogs, and discriminatory advertising.
The law relating to discrimination in South Australia is a mixture of Commonwealth and State law.
The following Acts apply in South Australia
Direct and indirect discrimination
Discrimination can be direct or indirect. Both kinds are unlawful.
Direct discrimination is what most people think of as discrimination, for example, an employer refusing to consider job applications from people of African origin or a landlord refusing to rent to tenants who have children.
Indirect discrimination means that conditions are imposed or rules are made that may, on their surface, may look equal but which, in practice, result in unfavourable treatment of some people. For example, suppose an employer stipulates that applicants for a particular job must have blue eyes. In practice, fewer people of African or Asian origin can meet this requirement, so the requirement could amount to race discrimination. Similarly, a requirement that all workers must be available for night shifts could be indirect discrimination against those who have caring responsibilities and are unable to arrange for a substitute carer to stay overnight in their absence. Whether indirect discrimination is unlawful will depend on whether the requirement is reasonable. If there is a good reason, for example, why all employees need to be available for night shifts, then the requirement will not be discrimination, even though it may be harder for carers to meet.